Thursday, December 18, 2008

Citizen crime analysts

This is your chance to think like a crime analyst. I'm going to try a little exercise where members of the general public who read the Chief's Corner put on a crime analyst's hat. If you want to play, other readers can be your cheerleaders or critics--including me! Nobody gets hurt, it might be illuminating, fun, and ultimately helpful.

Among the crime patterns we discussed last night, at our regular ADUDAT meeting, was a group of four larcenies from auto occurring at Churches within the past two weeks. A larceny from auto is a case in which someone illegally enters a motor vehicle and steals stuff inside. It's one of the most common crimes in Lincoln, and causes a huge dollar loss--well over $1 million annually, even more than burglary. These four cases were among the 63 overall within the past two weeks. That's a very low number, driven by the demise of good shopping weather for thieves.

So, here we are, on the verge of a big Church week, where the number of services and the number of attendees goes through the roof. I'm challenging non-LPD readers to come up with strategies to combat this crime. Remember that the strategies need to be practical: something we could do that is within our resources and capabilities, remembering that there are a lot of other crimes, disorder, and chaos for us to deal with this week, too (not to mention traffic crashes.)

If you need more information upon which to base your decisions or formulate your strategy, just ask. You might find or CrimeView Community helpful. As time permits the next few days, I dig it up for you.


Anonymous said...

1. Churches should discourage attendees to never leave any swag in their vehicles. Then mention it again, even have members of step #2 right there in the lot to prompt them to take their stuff into church or lock it in the trunk.

2. Churches should tap a few young male volunteers (larger high school football and basketball players are primo for this duty) to walk the parking lots during services, appropriately-dressed for the weather. Walk your post, and watch your flank, and shoo away anyone suspicious.

3. Post one or two of your volunteer patrol by any coatrooms and coat-racks. It's also a good way to meet & greet any nice ladies that attend services, while the patrol guys look sharp in their Sunday best.

If your budget allows, equip them with portable VHF radios and earpieces, in order to stay in comm and to rapidly concentrate the security force should it be necessary ("I need one backup here in the East lot; there are a couple of guys that just make the hair on the back of my neck stand up" and so forth).

Well, that's my ideas for the churches to do what they can for basically no cost, just marshal the volunteers.

Anonymous said...

Simple minds apparently get to go first, so here I am!

One day spent telephoning, emailing or writing letters to church leaders. A quick Google for business results: Church in Lincoln, NE reveals about 160.

In this contact, explain that cars being broken into during church services is a high incidence crime. The church could serve their members by asking a volunteer armed with a cell phone to walk through the parking lot from 1/2 hr. before to 1/2 hour after services.

One person walking around will provide a huge amount of deterrent from someone checking car doors or breaking windows.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to suggest that LPD could come up with a one or two page guide sheet on organizing such a volunteer security force and then distribute them to the head cheese at each of those churches. It'd be sort of a force multiplier for LPD, the way I see it, because it would free your Officers up from keeping an eye on the churches and lots during those services, unless dispatched there on a call.

Anonymous said...

As I sit and brainstorm, it feels like all the ideas I come up with are either plainly naive or have as a premise that criminals actually watch the local news (or channel 5!). But I do wonder if you could ask churches to have their greeters remind patrons as they enter to lock their doors, or perhaps print such a reminder in the bulletin. I know I spend more time reading the bulletin than I do paying attention to the service, but I may be a minority on that.

Anonymous said...

Call Madoff. He seems to know how to fund operations like this.
Or, pick a church in central Lincoln and advertise on the radio and paper a "MEMBER GIFT MEET AND EX CHANGE" for Dec 22nd
Then park 15 or 20 cars around leaving some wrapped gifts inside.
Then wait.
The old saying; You can feed a mouse to find it, or trap a mouse to catch it. A fed mouse may tell on his friends. A trapped mouse my die, as many do.

Anonymous said...

Chief - I'm a local government worker and a member of GovLoop, which is an online community of government employees. Those of us who work for local government who are on GovLoop have spent some time talking about how we would like to see "Gov 2.0" used at the local government level.
Your blog is a cool example of what we - both as employees AND as citizens of local government entities would LOVE to see. This post today is such a great example that I posted a link to it.
Thanks for doing what you do!

Anonymous said...

This is slightly off topic, but yesterday's LJS had a story about a family that lost thousands in jewelry and other items when their home was burglarized while they were at a family member's wake. I had a friend stay at my home when we attended my father's funeral of to keep this from happening.

I suspect the above referenced story was probably an "inside" job such as perpetrated by the boyfriend of the teenage grand-daughter, or the boyfriend of the cleaning lady type of deal. Someone knew this family would be gone and also knew they had valuables in the home. Or they read of the wake time in the paper. But reading the obits seems kind of high-performance for a burglar. Pretty despicable.

I agree that reminding people to lock their car doors and put valuables in the trunk is critical to helping thwart some of this behavior.

Anonymous said...

Where, when, what day of week, what's being taken from the cars, and about how many churches are there is Lincoln?

Anonymous said...

To ANON 11:25-
When my uncle died in, we had a trusted neighbor stay at his house while we were all at the funeral. I would doubt it is an "inside job" as you believe, but rather, bad guys can read the paper too. Believe it or not, the obituary section lets them know who died, and then a search of the county assessors sight quickly tells them if the deceased is a homeowner, and their address along with floorplans etc..
Also, the paper prints when the funeral / viewing/ wake etc.. is being held, so bad guy can know when this residence has the best chance of being vacant. A quick drive by on the day in question lets them know for sure and if the opportunity presents itself, they break in.
++ Family should carpool to the funeral and leave some vehicles parked in the driveway at the house, or in front, making it appear occupied. Also, see about getting a neighbor to house sit for a few hours while you're at the funeral / burial.

Tom Casady said...


Good questions. You've got to scan, before you respond. The four within the past two weeks occurred at far-flung churches located at 1511 S. 70th St., 7800 Holdrege St., 2000 D St., and 1800 S. 84th St.. Three occurred on Wednesday, December 10, and one on Sunday, Dec. 14th. Here's the list

Sunday 12-14-08 between 9:00 AM and 10:20 PM, 1551 S. 70th, window smashed, purse and contents.

Wednesday 12-10-2008 between 6:15 PM and 10:10 PM, 7800 Holdrege, possibly unlocked, purse and contents.

Wednesday 12-10-2008 between 6:00 PM and 7:30 PM, 2000 D St., keys removed from coat pocket inside Church, computer bag and contents taken from vehicle in lot.

Wednesday 12-10-2008 between 8:15 AM and 10:45 AM, 1800 S. 84th, window smasked, purse and contents.

There are about 300 Churches in Lincoln. All four of these are large congregations. Many of the larger churches in Lincoln have activities all day (day care, for example) and Wednesday night mid-week service or family activities are pretty common. One of these Churches also has a small parochial elementary school as part of its building/campus.

When you look at the past two years, there have been 28 cases at churches, mostly on Sunday mornings. Here's the chart with the details on day and time.

Anonymous said...

Have churches hand out bumper stickers that say, "Nothing in this car is worth your jail time." Just kidding, that is a great invitation for a personal challenge.

More seriously, churches should have signs that say these parking lots are being watched and cameras on light poles. Even dummy cameras would be a deterrent.

I have yet to read a sign that says, "This church loves sinners, so please stop by."

Anonymous said...

I think we could borrow some rehabilitated inmates from the local prison and have them volunteer their time to work security in and out of the churches. I really think they would love it, they all become born again Christians while in prison anyway, so what a treat for them to serve the Lord and their community.

Tango Juliet said...

I've always been a fan of explosives. I bet it wouldn't take but one or two exploding Buicks to get the message out.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, good idea, I'd trust THEM watching my car....... (COUGH)

Anonymous said...

Hand out "Protected by Smith & Wesson" stickers to all the church members to put in their car windows.

Anonymous said...

Rather than changing our behavior, why don't we try to change the criminals behavior.

Suggestion 1: Creative Punishment

While in the Marine Corps I noted a fellow Marine standing on the busiest road in Camp Pendleton. This Marine was there every evening at rush hour for a week with a sandwich board that read, "It does not pay to go AWOL".
It certainly stuck in my mind. Why would tht not work?

Suggestion 2: Arm the congregation

A well armed flock would certainly keep the wolves away.

Suggestion 3: Booby Traps

Nobody likes the surprise of a Rambo style booby trap.

Anonymous said...

The booby trap idea would probably get you sued. They can work though and can deter crime. I know of one young fellow who was converted from a life of crime by a booby trap.

It was in the mid 1970's right during the big CB radio craze. A good friend of mine had two or three CB radios stolen from his pickup truck. I had a CB thief break the windows of my locked semi tractor and take a crowbar to my very SECURE CB radio. The broken glass damage and the destroyed but still there CB radio damage amounted to about $600.00. My insurance deductible was $750.00, so I footed the whole bill.

Ever since then I never leave anything valuable in a vehicle and I NEVER LOCK a vehicle up. I have seen signs of people entering a vehicle and riffling through things to find valuables but since that truck damage 30+ years ago it has not cost me a dime in lost things or vehicle damage. My theory is that a thief sees a locked vehicle as a sign that there is something in it worth stealing.

Anonymous said...

use rent-a-cops, like perhaps silver eagle-they can carry weapons-have them park where wanna be thieves will see them. How ever if there were more then 1 thief working a lot this probably wouldn't work because there is something called deversion that could divert the rent-a-cops attention.Or plant a seen rent-a-cop and one undercover-sounds like a good sting to me.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone considered holding the church service in the parking lot? Kinda like a pre husker game tailgate party, but instead of delicious hot wings and bud light there will be communion wafers and grape juice. People can still wear jersey's and at random times throughout the service start yelling the "GOOO BIIIIIGGGG REEEEEDDDDD, GO BIG RED!" cheer, so it will feel like a football saturday, and all of the people will keep the criminals away. I smell a new trend......

car54 said...

Are the 4 thefts from churches part of a recent series of thefts from cars? While an analysis shows the uniqueness of the location of the thefts are they really unique? With less about 1 theft per 2 weeks over two years are you over analyzing? Are we looking at a small portion of the picture and missing what is really happening? Is there some other factor that could be the reason for the thefts? Are the churches close to major roads? From the times of the theft they do not appear to have been committed by the same person(s). With three on 12-10-08 travel time would seem to be a problem. The one where someone might have gone into the church to get the key to the vehicle would seem to be a different class of offender than a smash and grabber.

You could do the some of the normal crime prevention strategies, add parking lot lights, monitoring of parking lots. Inserting flyers in church bulletins telling people to remove items from plain sight when leaving their cars parked in public lots etc., but I do not know if they would be that effective. It’s not like there is an epidemic.

While I know the people who have been the victims are unhappy about their loss, I wonder if enough of pattern has emerged for a effective response to be formualted.

Anonymous said...

Taking the purse inside instead of leaving it in the car might be a good idea, for starters.

The catch seems to be that in big parking lots full of cars, the targets of these kinds of crimes also end up making good hiding spots. What kinds of parking situations were there at these churches? Since they were larger, my guess is they had big lots with high concentrations of vehicles? Am I right on this, Chief?

Tom Casady said...


Yes, you are right. Car54 makes a good point--what seems like a pattern might best be considered against the backdrop of ALL the thefts from auto occurring during the past two weeks. There were 64, so the churches are a small percentage. Nonetheless, it's four cases at churches in a couple weeks, when there have been only 23 in the preceding 23 months from January, 2007 through November, 2008. And you can't ignore the fact that this coming week will pack those lots like no other. It's a period of particular vulnerability.

Anonymous said...

The answer to your "prayers."

car54 said...

If the recent cases raise a question of the possibility of thefts spiking in and around churches because of packed houses at this time of the year why not run some type of directed patrol in and near those large parking lots during the times they will be full of cars. I am sure previous years calls for service will show a decreased demand for police service on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Kind of like during a home football game.

Officers could conduct stationary patrols, maybe acting like they are running radar, and do surveillance on entrances and exits of the parking lots of the churches during the time of church services. I know the presence of a police car or police officer will not stop all offenders. However, I think in this case it could provide deterrence to those less committed to a career as a criminal

Anonymous said...

I guess my point in my nov 18/0627 was that there aren't nearly enough patrol Officers to cover all team areas on all shifts, and still take on the extra duty of making a big dent in LFA at 300 churches, some of which have very large and/or multiple lots. For instance, how is the thinly-staffed SE B beat going to cover 15 sq miles of patrol area - and also all of the many churches on their beat?

It's up to the people at the churches to pitch in and team up in an organized effort. They need to both patrol their own lots and also make their property less appealing by locking their doors, and leaving nothing swaggy in sight or even in the car but "hidden" under a jacket (or similar cover). They'll bust your window to steal bottom-feeder loot like a pair of gloves and a tire gauge (A8-124958 ) if you leave them there, so don't leave it there. If you can't get your swag 100% out of sight, then don't bring it! What's so hard about that?

Churches are in a strong position to organize their most robust and fit members as volunteers, having them patrol their own lots, coat-racks, and cloakrooms.

Don't want to become an LFA victim? Then don't be stupid! You've all got a frontal brain, so act like it. If you don't leave it there, they can't steal it. Don't have a purse that's so big that it's practically a weekender bag, if it's too big to constantly carry with you! It's just dumb.

Anonymous said...

I kind of think this is common sense, but then again, I have relatives that are cops... if you must leave stuff in your car, put it in the trunk or out of view. If the thief doesn't see anything of value, they aren't going waste time busting out your windows. Also, if you have a coat with you, and you hang it up at the "coat rack" inside church... don't leave your car keys in the pocket!! Keep your keys on your person where you know they will be safe. Also, put your registration and your garage door opener in your trunk or take it with you. That way if the thieves do decide to take off with your car, they don't go straight to your house and help themselves to all your christmas presents!
I do like all the ideas of having volunteers patrol the lots. I would guess that the high school guys would be more than willing to skip the service and play recon force anyway. :)

car54 said...

Anonymous 8:35

I can not find the post you are talking about when you refer to Nov 18/627 but I understand about low staffing. But I do not think that is the point here. The point is there is something that can be done with the staffing that will be available during church service times that can help reduce the likelihood that patrons of the churches will be victims of theft from vehicles.

How can a thinly staffed team help out? Having worked in LE for a number of years I know there is always a little time to swing by someplace to check something out. No officer’s time is completely occupied. You can always swing through a lot when going form place to place. How about when you take your break or lunch get it go and park in the parking lot at the church or near it so that you can been seen for 10 or 15 minutes. Not only might you prevent something from happening or possible catch someone in the act, the good folks going to church whom you have made aware of the problem will be appreciative.

The solution is in all parties working together. But the department needs to take the lead. Remember all ducks need to be told about wolves. And all hunters of wolves need to find the dens where the wolves are hunting so they can hunt the wolves.

I am sure the churches can and will organize their flock to help but it will take your help to get it done. Rather than seeing them as stupid, view them as uneducated and innocent, maybe even oblivious to their surroundings. From your post you seem to have all the knowledge they need to know so they do not to become duck soup.

Share it!!! They will thank you greatly.

Anonymous said...

well I ain't never-here it is just a little bit after 11 pm sunday night 2 women trying to get a vehicle un-stuck. We tried .chains,salt, carpet etc. and low and behold here comes one of those men in blue. waves and drives by.I guess it's because were 2 women needing help and that we are in "THE CORE" I guess that just goes to show the general population of the core -the cops are 2 afraid to help 2 women get unstuck. But hey bet if he thought we were selling p---y he;d stop on a dime. so thanks lpd for nothing !

Anonymous said...

To 11:25

Since when has LPD looked like a tow service?

Take some responsibility in your life. Your anger is mis-directed.

I live and work in "the core" and would have been happy to tow or push you out, but I do not believe LPD's priority list should include digging someone out of the snow.

I would also be happy to show you how to use chains or salt effectively.

This is Nebraska, if you can't make it with your vehicle, get a 4x4. The next 15 years of winters are projected to be much colder due to solar patterns.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone considered that the bad guys were in the parking lots, and watching who got out of a car without a purse? This is a much easier way to target a vehicle than to walk the lot, looking into windows, and being seen doing so.

The reason I mention this, is that our car was broken into recently while my spouse was working out. It was the only car hit.

The officer reasoned (correctly, we think) that the thieves were watching for a woman to walk into the facility in sweats- not carrying a purse. (our windows are very dark, and it happened at night- no way to see the purse on the back floorboard- covered up)

So....could the same thing be happening at the church? If so, look for people sitting in a car in the lot who "don't fit" so to speak- by clothing, etc?

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:25

GO 1830

I'll get written up if something should go wrong in my physically assisting a citizen under these circumstances.

Were they going to sell a peony? because I like flowers. Or perhaps a pansy?

Anonymous said...

What if LPD worked with churches the same way they do with neighborhoods? I also like the idea of camera (real or fake) installation, & especially 1-2 parishoners patrolling the lots during large events, depending on the size of the lot.

Or, you can always stick these on the windshields. :)

Anonymous said...

so this is how you were taught to speak to your elders-------what a wonderful world we live in Mr, Jones!